Visiting the Boston Harbor Islands – Summer Bucket List 2014

The weather in New England has been gorgeous this week: sunny, warm (but not too hot), with just the right amount of breeze. It’s the kind of week when I am so glad we live here.

And, when the weather is this good the best way to celebrate it is to get outside. For my family that meant visiting the Boston Harbor Islands, a hidden gem of the city of Boston that is managed by the National Park Service. The Harbor Islands include seven islands accessible by ferry—Georges, Spectacle, Peddocks, Lovells, Grape, Bumpkin, and Thompson—and four peninsulas accessible by car.

I had been to Thompson Islands many years ago on a graduate school trip, and my husband has been kayaking out to Bumpkin, but we had not yet taken the kids to the Islands. So, when Boston Harbor Cruises, the ferryboat line that services the Harbor Islands, invited my family for a trip, we answered with a resounding yes. Coincidentally, a visit to the Islands is on our 2014 Summer Bucket List! Kismet!

The ferry departs from Long Wharf, and about 40 minutes later—after some very entertaining and informative narration by a ferryboat staff member—we arrived at Georges Island, which is home to Fort Warren, a military stronghold in the Civil War through to World War II.  Construction on Fort Warren began in 1833, and today, it’s a great place to show kids a little bit of history (with lots of outdoor space to run around).

1 View of Boston from Long Wharf | 2 Fort Warren | 3 Boston Skyline | 4 Our Ferry to Georges Island | 5 Welcome | 6 My kids outside of the Visitors Center | 7 Atop Fort Warren | 8 Junior Park Ranger | 9 Checking Out the History Exhibit

Georges Island is also a transition stop for several of the other Harbor Islands, and it features a café, a visitors center with an exhibit on the history of the island, a playground, and areas to camp and picnic.

We elected to stay on Georges Island for our trip, saving the other islands for another time. A highlight for us was a kids tour of the fort, led by a park ranger who did an excellent job showing us what life on the island had been like during the Civil War. The kids loved it!

The kids also completed the steps to become a junior park ranger of Georges Island, which I recommend if you’re visiting with young kids. We did a fair amount of exploring and ate a picnic lunch under the sun. We practiced skimming rocks along the shoreline, and running up and down hills and in and out of the fort. We watched new arrivals, including a number of people who camped on the island overnight. The best part was the two exhausted kids we brought home—and that we all want to return.

Disclosure: Boston Harbor Cruises provided my family with complimentary ferry tickets. All of the opinions and ideas in this post, however, are mine.